WOE threw down her clay flute, WOE changed. She threw down her flute. WOE, whose hair flows over the sea, she threw down her flute.
The island persons, created-by-WOE persons, they are like grain, they have flowed into a new vessel. The persons have composed one hundred stories about the creation. They have composed one hundred stories about Magellan. They have composed one hundred stories about each one of the persons of the village.
Created-by-me persons have done this foreign thing. I am WOE. I am as strong as this island world. I am as strong as this encircled world. I am as strong as this flooded, infiltrated world. I existed prior to water, but I was silent then. I existed prior to the foreigners, but I was ignorant then. I made no distinction between honey, rats, swords or birds, when I first spoke those names. If rats are not as beautiful as honey, if rats are not as aware as birds, if rats are to be condemned even above swords, then I am wrong, my words are wrong, my eyes are wrong, my island is wrong. If I must protect myself from creation, if I must hide from the words of others, if stories are normal, if I am not normal, then the cave of the heart of all creatures is empty.
I protected seven babies, and saw them die. But I will not protect myself.
I gave my island to a foreigner, then I killed him. But I will not flee, I will not hide.
What is within me is also every place. What is every place is within me. I must have invented stories, I must have invented fate, I must have invented tedium, I must have invented drinking alcohol, I must have invented lies, I must have invented pain. I will not insult the names of these things, I will not insult the forms of the gods, I will not insult the gods of these names. I will stop speaking, rather than use their names in storytelling, I will stop speaking and remain silent rather than trap the gods in a story. I will become mute rather than ruin the objects of the world by using them to decorate stories.
I am the size of a thumb, my island is the size of a jar, my silence will make no difference among these thousand speaking voices. But I will not pretend to be happy, I will not put my heart into the furnace and talk it away.
I am the size of a drop of water, I travel down the mountain, I split into streams. The man who thinks that is a story, he gets lost in many streams.
A drop of water is enough. The man who sees it, he is satisfied.
I hear a word as I hear my own breath. I hear a hymn as I hear my heart beat. I hear a note on the flute as I hear the footsteps of my own people. I hear a story as I hear a shadow that falls over the light.
When I sleep, then I awaken and say this rhetoric:
The misery of WOE...a daughter she did not hear: incomplete baby: fearful islanders: murder of Magellan: the cursE and the river: seven daughters mourn: Spaniards in bronze: the destruction of music: Briton ignorance: an army defeats itself: murder of all foreigners: plague of impotence: WOE leaves the island forever: the wreck of the island: weeping of men and women. The misery of WOE.
Before this story began, there was no River Swastika flowing through the island, neither the Greater nor Lesser Swastika. The island was without a shape. There was no arrangement to the colors. There were no roots underground.
We had the mist-tree. Each morning, the sun struck the tree in the east, a cloud formed around the tree, the tree vanished in cloud. Tree, no-roots-tree, unseen tree. In daylight, all the leaves dropped, we went to collect them. They were pods full of sweet water.
At night, more leaves grew out. This happened all the year. All the year was the same and there was no border to a year, there was no border to the time.
In those days you passed your hand in front of your face and did not know your hand was there. Motions of your body had the form of rustling sounds. Speech was murmur all the day and night. Speech did not come from voices of persons. Speech was in the earth.
Birds of those times had long feathers. Birds were born with differing colors each morning, according to the color of cloud around the mist-tree.
After Magellan came, after Magellan disturbed the world, after Magellan offended the gods of words, after Magellan died upon a log bridge, after Magellan fed two rivers, then no birds were born in a colored mist.
Blue, orange and jade birds lost their names, their names lost the souls of names, the birds were lost. They were called birds, meaning "world birds." They could not change their name to "island birds."
WOE looked at the sea, WOE was the size of the point of a knife. The sea was much larger than the former sea. Before Magellan came, the sea was called "sea," meaning the water gird of the world. It could not change its name to Path toward the World, Distance from the World, Sea of Enemies, Sea of Darkness.
If the sea has no weight, if the sea has no depth, if the sea has no color, if the sea has no smell, if the sea has no taste, if the sea has no sand, if the sea is no good to work in or play in, then it loses the faith of its name. The word "sea" has nothing of SEA and the sea has nothing of SEA.
Every other name and thing on the island came into such a condition also. Each tree was without its god. The red fish was without its god. The spear point was without its god. Every thing you can name lost the faith of its name.
There is a fire lit: the fire has lost the faith of its name. Persons look into the fire, the fire fails to hold the eye. The fire fails to speak to the eye.
WOE, whose spoken speeches are permanent, whose words are bone, who is made of words, who holds the souls of words: where is your voice, where is your language, where is your creation?
Now persons meet in a group every night, around a false fire. The persons are thirsting for a story.
One man tells a story to all. His story makes every person listen. Every utterance makes you laugh. His story creates a foolish woman, every utterance makes you laugh at the foolish woman, at her foolish husband, at the stupid dog owned by them.
Every utterance of the story is made of a false word, put together with a word that used to be true.
The listeners have nothing they can see. No thing is created here. The listeners look into the fire, to try to see. The fire is dark, the fire is not enough bright.
They hear the utterances, they hear the story. LAUGHING does not want to be laughed but LAUGHING laughs upon being forced to laugh.
The story teller, he shouts, he says he sees this woman, he sees her husband, also the dog. He shouts as if the woman is concentrated out of ten women, as if the husband is concentrated out of ten men, as if the dog is concentrated out of ten dogs.
What is wrong in this story, what is terrible in this story, what is missing from this story that must be added, what is within this story that must be removed?
Persons are laughing at a woman and a man and a dog. The woman is trapped, the man is trapped, the dog is trapped. They can do only the things that are funny. They can say only the things that are funny. The man and woman and dog, they will die without singing, they will die without dreaming, they will die without walking, they will die without sitting alone, they will die without thinking, they will die apart from every other soul, they will die and never live beneath the earth, they will never live after the story ends. They are being told, they are being told by STORY, they are trapped, they will die.
The story teller shouts, and the woman and man and dog are bright, terrible, they flame in the night, they hurt the eyes. There is nothing, it is dark, it is not enough bright. His story is a burial. His story cuts short the life of those who hear it. His story is a sharp dagger, his story is a baited trap.
WOE, when you made the world, there was no falsehood. You held out a word, there was the word in your hand.
WOE, you who created the world, you can not explain. You can make a hymn, but you can not make a story and explain.
Your muteness was the foundation of the world. Your muteness, it is a crack in the world. Your muteness will be the destruction of the world. You are a failure. You are mute.
In the times before these times, the first story was told. WOE, you are mute. So that Magellan told the first story. He said "Tomorrow I will bring gifts." We all heard him. He spoke "gifts" and GIFT listened, GIFT sang for us all the night. Magellan spoke "gifts" even though no gifts were before us.
We saw the gifts. The words came from his mouth, the words were gifts, we saw gifts. We slept the night dreaming of unseen gifts. Our huts piled high with unseeable gifts. We gifted ourselves with GIFT, and GIFT gave us transparent gold, floating boxes, silver water moving through tubes in the sky, whirling statues whose faces changed every moment. We saw lambs made of pig, pigs made of fish, a song of blue stone that fit under the tongue and sang out. Magellan spoke our word for gifts, he changed our word for gifts.
Magellan, tomorrow he then brought gifts. They did not match. They did not match what we saw. We wept, we heard a story, we believed a story about the future, it diverted us, it was bright, it was false.
A false story does not happen, but it is true while it is told. WOE said this.
A true story would say:
The sun rose up, the sea waves waved.
The sun continued in rising. The sea waves continued the waving.
The sun, the waves. The sun, the waves.
WOE told that story to her daughters. She told another true story, saying: A true story would be every word that does now appear.
Cinnamon, banana, stone, eyes, fish net, mouse.
This story can be believed. But it cannot be listened to.
When her daughters left home to go to the village and speak, WOE told them this rhetoric:
Tell stories that can be listened to. Tell true stories that can be listened to. Create a true story that can be listened to. Speak each word with honor to the god, speak each word as you sing. You are the beautiful singers of the world, you are the beautiful singers of the known and unknown world, you are the beautiful singers of the three worlds. Speak stories with the same care as you sing.
WOE said all this, to each daughter, this is what she said. Every daughter heard her.
After her daughters died, they did not believe her words. They questioned her words.
If a word were a god, would I not worship this word? I am speaking just now. A speaking, a rhetoric, leaves no time to worship each word. I refuse to speak so slowly.
Nothing wrong happens if I ignore words. I will ignore words as I speak them.
If a word were a god, speaking would cause:
the ocean to boil,
the mountain to crumble,
the birds to explode in the sky,
the eyes of the fish to turn to fire,
the children to grow to a thousand miles in length,
the songs to turn to snow,
the speeches to turn to goat's milk,
the trees to turn to fountains of sugar,
the houses to fill with pink smoke,
the multitudes of humans to fall into the dust,
the multitudes of insects to raise into the sky.
That is how her daughters spoke to WOE.
WOE heard them. Then as they watched, WOE spoke one word.
It was a word they did not know.
And the ocean boiled, the mountain crumbled, the birds exploded in the sky, the eyes of the fish turned to fire, the children grew to a thousand miles in length, the songs turned to snow, the speeches turned to goat's milk, the trees turned to fountains of sugar, the houses filled with pink smoke, the multitudes of humans fell into the dust, the multitudes of insects raised into the sky.
Seven daughters saw these. They became persons who spoke with great care, terrible care.
They became those persons you see who do not speak.
About the author:
James Chapman is the author of seven novels, recently "Stet" and "How is This Going to Continue?" He is the publisher of Fugue State Press. His work has appeared in Prague Literary Review, Central Park, Another Chicago Magazine, Journal of Experimental Fiction, and many other journals. He lives in New York.
© 2011 Word Riot